WHILE volleyball is currently enjoying immense popularity here, a top Filipino volleyball official said the Philippines is still no match compared to other countries.
“Hindi,” International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) development commission officer Ramon ‘Tats’ Suzara curtly replied when asked if the SRO crowd that watched the two previous La Salle-Ateneo games in the UAAP was the biggest he had seen.
“In other countries, mas marami. If you go to Poland, 25,000 (ang crowd). If you go to China, 25,000,” Suzara stressed with authority.
Only recently, a huge crowd of 19,638 witnessed the Lady Archers face off against the Lady Eagles in a second round at the Mall of Asia Arena in what was perhaps the most number of spectators who witnessed a volleyball game in the country.
And just last Saturday in the Game 1 of the UAAP finals between the same teams, a crowd of 17,480 trooped to the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to watch defending champion La Salle battled back from two sets down and beat Ateneo in five thrilling sets, 20-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22, 15-6.
The series opener is also expected to be a hit in the tv ratings since the La Salle-Ateneo second round match became the second best-rated UAAP program since its current broadcast partner took over the television rights of the league in 2000.
Then again, Suzara is glad to see Filipino crowd is starting to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of appreciating the beauty of volleyball.
“I’m happy na hindi na lang sa ibang bansa nangyayari ito, pati dito,” said Suzara.
The former secretary general of the Philippine Amateur Volleyball Association, the forerunner of the Philippine Volleyball Federation, said the crowd is even more into it than in basketball games.
“Hindi lang basketball. Ang basketball nga ngayon, mahirap na mapuno ng ganun diba? It’s just an ordinary game, La Salle and Ateneo, pero napupuno. Iba na ‘yung crowd. And I’m so happy about it lalo na kapag ganyan ang nakikita mo,” Suzara said.
He hopes the popularity being enjoyed by the sport today will eventually lead to the formation of a competitive national team in the future.
“Kapag ganyan ang turnout, isabay na rin ang national team dahil marami kang fans. Kasi kahit ano pang liga ‘yan, kung walang national team, kawawa rin ang mga players,” Suzara said.